Wow. We often talk about different companies that have leveraged their brand equity to move into different areas while retaining their core strategic story. One of those companies is Starbucks, which genuinely says it's not in the coffee business; it's in the experience business. Providing a great "third space," somewhere that's not home and not work, has been their goal, and with that, they've been able to expand into the most complicated beverage titles known to mankind, as well as food, music, books and movie promotions, to name a few.
That's what I thought, at least.
In Brand Autopsy, a great brand blog, John Moore (a one-time Starbucks marketer in ye olden days) carries on an extensive post-for-post dialogue (blogalogue?) with Paul Williams of Idea Sandbox (also a former Starbucks marketer and colleague of Moore's). Moore suggests that, if Howard Schultz is to see through his vision of 40,000 Starbucks around the world (aren't there more than that already?), the company would do well to return to its roots: coffee. Period.
Starbucks has changed the in-store conversation from being about the coffee to being about the Starbucks brand. No longer is it a customer experience inside Starbucks—it’s become a customer’s “Starbucks Experience.”
Once again, the brand is focused on itself, rather than the consumer. (Then again, Moore's suggestion makes it sound as though the focus should be on the coffee, rather than the consumer's connection to the coffee.)
The post, and the series, is worth reading in full, but I can't resist adding another (admittedly out of context) quote here:
Howard passionately talks about how Starbucks is the early chapters of a long, enduring story... So, if indeed Starbucks is in the beginning chapters of a much longer story, the company can afford to prune now. Take the time now to reposition the company and redirect the Starbucks ship back to true north, focusing on making a great cup of coffee and delivering unparalleled experiences to each and every customer. Smart investors will wait. Loyal customers will be patient. Store partners will be jazzed. And Starbucks will once again redefine how a company can grow its brand without forsaking its soul.
This is serious food for thought. Or caffeine for thought, as it were.